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Water and stone

Monday, September 19, 2016

Governor Brown vs. the People of California


I used to think Jerry Brown was a pretty decent governor. But his unseen hand is all over the recent legislative failure to provide more transparency on the shenanigans of the PUC and it stinks. Loretta Sanchez fired off at her opponent Kamala Harris the other day for her reluctance to investigate her boss and his cronies on the board.

Governor Brown will not release his communications with the PUC board that could possibly shed light on the secret Warsaw backroom deals with Edison. Why not? The CPUC is now seeking over twelve million dollars to cover the cost of private attorneys to defend themselves for this debacle.
AB 2903, introduced by Assemblyman Mike Gatto (D-Los Angeles), would have appointed an internal auditor at the commission to improve transparency and accountability. It also would have required the CPUC to appoint an ombudsman to monitor ethics at the agency and create a position for a new deputy executive director for safety, or “safety czar.”
But the measure died in the state Senate.
In an interview with inewsource, Gatto said he was shocked that the bill failed to reach the governor. He placed some blame on Senate Minority Leader Jean Fuller (R-Bakersfield) for blocking a key vote on the bill, but added: “I don’t think it was just her.”
Fuller’s office did not respond to a request for comment.
Brown had agreed to PUC reform in June and the word is that he then worked out a deal to kill it but not necessarily leave any fingerprints.
“I don’t know how to explain to the people of California that their leaders let them down,” said Assemblyman Mike Gatto, D-Los Angeles, who proposed a constitutional amendment to strip the commission of most of its authority before agreeing with Brown and others to an overhaul with less fundamental changes.
“You always have to decide whether a bill failed through incompetence or something more malevolent,” he said. “I have not decided which of those ended up killing the bill.”
Sen. Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, said one sticking point was an existing law that allows commission employees to be charged with a misdemeanor if they release confidential information.
Hill said commission President Michael Picker wanted that provision removed but some of the regulated entities lobbied for it to remain. Still, he could not blame that impasse for the demise of the larger reforms.
You never know what the real reason is,” Hill said of the legislative failure. “You don’t know why it happens.”
The Leno Bill, 215, was designed to provide governmental transparency to the people of California. Last year Jerry vetoed six different bills designed to provide even greater reforms at the PUC.
“Clearly something that was orchestrated happened,” he said, noting that he’s “heard nothing” from the governor on the bill’s death. “It was a set of comprehensive reforms. I surmise that some pretty powerful people didn’t like them.”
The Governor's appointees to the appellate court (including Tony Kline) issued a last minute ruling that put the icing on the cake and kept the citizens of California from ever figuring out what really went down between the board and Brown's office.
A San Francisco Superior Court judge allowed the lawsuit to proceed but commission lawyers took their case to appellate court, saying the lower court had no legal jurisdiction to hear the case.
In a 16-page ruling issued hours before the reform legislation fizzled, the 1st District Court of Appeal reversed the Superior Court and prohibited it from conducting further proceedings in the case.
“If there is a dispute as to whether the CPUC has complied with the PRA, filing an action against the CPUC in an appellate court … will not limit the public’s right to access to the documents,” the judges wrote.
Aguirre disagreed with the ruling, noting that aggrieved parties have a right to be heard at the Superior Court level, but not by an appellate court.
“The appellate court waited until it was too late for the legislature to respond, then announced they were going to shield Gov. Brown’s files from disclosure,” Aguirre said. “They really are not interested in any kind of reform.”
Two of the three judges that signed the ruling were appointed by Brown.
Besides allowing plaintiffs to sue the commission in Superior Court over public-records disputes, the Gatto legislation would have moved oversight of car services like Uber and Lyft away from the commission.
It also would have created a deputy director position in charge of safety and a chief ethics position, and directed the commission to work with federal regulators to move 3 million-plus pounds of nuclear waste from San Onofre away from the San Diego County coast.
We deserved better.

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